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Why Don't Kids Listen?

Strategies to help your 5- or 6-year-old practice her cooperation skills.
 

Learning Benefits

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Photo: Terry Doyle/Getty Images

 

Do you feel like you have to raise your voice or repeat yourself multiple times before your child responds? Does she turn every request into a battle? This behavior is typical of kids at this stage. They’re asserting their independence by testing limits, mostly against their parents.

 

Communicating clear and consistent expectations can make your child more likely to cooperate. Start by creating a list of house rules. Try stating positive “do” behaviors instead of negative “don’t” behaviors. For example, say “Keep a calm and safe body” instead of “No hitting.” Review the rules often.

 

Help your child to listen by telling her what to do rather than asking. Pair your verbal request with nonverbal cues such as physically guiding your child toward the task. Be sure to follow through on your commands. If your child refuses to clean up his toys, for example, calmly say, “If you don’t pick up your blocks now, you won’t be able to play with them for two days.”

 

Encourage cooperation by offering immediate, specific praise. Tangible rewards can also work. For example, after your child receives ten “points” for listening the first time, he might get to choose the dinner menu!

 

 

 

Elena Jeffries, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and co-founding partner of Positive Developments, a group practice in Millburn, NJ. She specializes in child and adolescent psychotherapy and positive discipline strategies for parents.

 

 

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